Weekly Thought – May 30, 2017
Fred’s humor was definitely a hallmark of his personality, and his speaking. In his later years when he was bed-bound he fought through insomnia by recalling “punch lines” and then telling himself the joke. He had a mental list of over 200. His respect for humor and for audiences kept him from taking “cheap shots.” But his love of word-play and puns left him open to groans from those who didn’t appreciate the fine art form.
Use and Abuse of Humor
For years I’ve studied the serious use of humor. I once asked Malcolm Muggeridge f there had ever been a book written about it. He said, “Yes – I know of two and they are both dreary because the authors had no sense of humor.” In my experience, most books about humor end up being joke books, and not discussing the theory, practice, and meaning of humor.
We all recognize humor as a relief from hostility and rising tempers. Humor can be the softest of soft answers. It can be a coagulating agent for diverse groups in an audience. It is often used to give a psychological break when sustained thinking becomes tiring. I have noted times when a speaker’s remark received a much greater laugh than you would expect just because the audience wanted to laugh and wanted a break.
There are many misuses, as well. I’ll mention only three.
1) The person who borrows a story and tells it as if it happened to them. Since most people in the audience have likely heard the story many times before from many different speakers, such a technique decreases the effect of the story and impinges on the integrity of the speaker. For example, how many people have told you about the dead cat found outside the back door at the same time the tuna casserole prepared and served to guests was consumed by the feline? It would be a strange coincidence for it to happen throughout the country, but it is told over and over as a “first person experience.”
2) Using too much humor causes listeners to just wait for the next laugh and ignore the serious parts of the talk. Laughs are expected and appreciated – sometimes more than substantive remarks. But this shows disrespect for the audience, unless it is billed as stand-up comedy. We have too often dumbed down our presentations and merely gone for entertainment. When we are booked as a speaker with a message, stringing together a series of jokes isn’t honest.
3) Our humor should be theologically correct and clean. I find those who profess faith in Jesus Christ, but joke about hell or immorality of doubtful character. As Christians we should certainly have joy, but we shouldn’t promote an attitude of wanton foolishness. Dirty jokes get laughs, but leave a bad taste.
Humor should illustrate a principle, not just be decorative. The more we can see humor in the human situations, the more they serve as excellent sources of content. One of the purposes I talk about frequently is that of being a social lubricant. It can oil the gears of conversation and ease tensions.
And of course, it keeps us from taking ourselves too seriously. We can foster a healthy perspective when we can laugh.
This week think about: 1) What makes me laugh? 2) How disciplined am I about what makes me laugh? 3) When do I allow myself to laugh to release tension?
Words of Wisdom: “Humor can be the softest of soft answers.”
Wisdom from the Word: “He will yet fill your mouth with laughter, and your lips with gladness.” (Job 8:21 NET Bible)